“It’s an opportunity for solidarity”: Birmingham Holds Candlelight Vigil for victims of Anti-Transgender Hate Crime
Remembrance Candles at the event. Credit: Henry Fox
November 20th 2021 — Dozens gather for a solemn afternoon in Birmingham’s Gay Village, in memory of transgender people killed in anti-transgender attacks and those lost to the system. This comes after a recent surge in hate crimes in Birmingham’s Gay Village.
The murder of transgender people worldwide has been described as an epidemic. Four in five transgender victims of violent crime will not report it to authorities, Stonewall estimates. Social stigma surrounding being transgender, poverty, and a lack of transition resources contribute to both violence against transgender people and alarmingly high suicide rates, with 52% of transgender youth seriously considering suicide in 2020. This rate is higher in BAME communities.
Transgender Day of Remembrance, or TDOR, falls on November 20 theach year, and was first commemorated in 1999, after the 1998 murder of Rita Hester, a transgender woman. The day is to commemorate and celebrate the lives of those who were murdered because of their gender identity.
Virgo performing at the Transgender Day of Remembrance event. Credit: Henry Fox
At the popular Nightingale club, the show doesn’t just focus on murder victims, but those lost to suicide and to a lack of healthcare. “We all have our grief”, says organizer Naomi Rowe, “but it’s more like a wake than a funeral”.
Organised over just three weeks by TranSpectrum, Brum Bi Group, and Birmingham Pride, passionate speeches, live poetry, song, and dance performances fill the afternoon. At the end, the names of those souls lost, many close friends of those in the audience, are read aloud, while the crowd are invited to light a candle in their memories. To the LGBT+ community, it’s an opportunity not just for sorrow, but for anger.
Speeches at the Nightingale. Credit: Henry Fox.
Anger. Focusing on the long waiting list for gender-affirming care on the NHS, the demonization of transgender people by a number of UK celebrities, the high rates of homelessness and suicide, and the platforming of Lily Cade, who is accused of sexual misconduct and called for the “lynching” of prominent transgender women, by the BBC. Speakers urge those watching to campaign against transphobia wherever they see it, and invite the audience to join a large-scale protest at the BBC’s headquarters.
As the afternoon turns to evening, the mood is sombre, yet conversational. The crowd splits into a conversation space for transgender people and a workshop for cisgender (non-transgender) allies. I sit down with drinks to speak with a couple of the attendees, who were there to watch the show.
Brienne Jones and Riley Thurley came to the gathering together, “It’s an opportunity for solidarity”, says Riley, about the celebration, though both have their concerns about the rise in hate crimes locally, “I think the hate crime is a response to more sort of visibility. We’re more visible and more powerful than we’ve ever been, which is excellent, but it also exposes us a lot more”, says Brienne.
The night ended on a note of melancholy as the crowd dispersed. The organisers hope to serve the Birmingham transgender community with more events in the next year, even amidst fears of transgender rights being eroded.
Originally published at http://henryfoxportfolio.wordpress.com